Richard Gold’s Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method is a treasure chest of practical tools and profound inspiration in one book. Representing extensive years of Gold’s dedication and creativity, the contents offer the therapist a variety of methodsnarrative poetry, fill-in-the-blanks, ‘what if,’ and other brilliant exercisesto engage at-risk youth in ways that ordinary dialogue cannot. The responses of the young people reveal their worlds of both horror and hope, of injustices and overcoming, of pain and compassion. The genius of the method leaves not only youth better off, but the professional user as well.
Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method provides a roadmap for therapists, counselors, and teachers to help troubled adolescents transform their lives through poetry. Both wise and pragmatic, Pongo reminds us that healing is art; that listening, validation, and respect are core elements of therapeutic relationships; and that human connections underlie our most basic needs and our most rewarding experiences.
Richard Gold’s creativity, compassion, and empathy, coupled with his deep sense of the integrity of the human spirit, has allowed healing and restorative expressions to flow from adolescents who have experienced profound emotional traumas. The Pongo Method is essentially a way for these young peoplemany with severe emotional problems and some who have been ensnared in the juvenile justice systemto learn to communicate and think about their life experience through poetry and storytelling. Many are able to reframe horrific experiences and put some closure around “issues” that they have held back from feeling and thinking about. Although the Pongo “process” is not therapy in a traditional sense, it represents the essential elements of the most effective treatments and does this through a modality that youth can engage in with honesty and trust.
For even the seasoned teacher, working with traumatized children can be intimidating. Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method not only inspires teachers to help these youth write poetry but also provides clear instructions on how to facilitate the work - all while taking care of these children. It proves an essential tool for anyone with the heart to take on this important vocation.
Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method is a step by step guide in understanding the minds of at-risk youth. By following a carefully planned writing program the guide helps the instructor liberate youth from past trauma. The road to recovery is bumpy, but this guide can make their journey smoother.
I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from Richard Gold, with his remarkably creative and effective method, in our work together with incarcerated youth and adults. He is a superb clinician and teacher, and I recommend this unique book, Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method, to anyone who chooses to work with this underserved population.
For many years as an incarcerated youth, writing was my principal method of venting in a highly constrained and rule-governed environment; and now as an adult working with incarcerated youth it is more clear to me than ever how powerful a tool writing can be for youth going through that experience….By the time I reached the end of the book I was convinced of the potential for empowerment that can come from Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method. That marvelous poetry is there locked inside these troubled youth; the method is clearly effective in helping them bring it to the world.
Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Methodis atoolbox for transformation,anincredible resource for alldisciplines servingyouth. Richard Gold's method for expressive writingprovides an instructionalpathway tomeet the immediate needs of youth in distress.Itintroduces youth to a lifelong vehicle forcoping and introduces practitioners to an intersection of best practice and meaningfulhuman connection.
Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method collects Richard Gold’s more than 20 years spent working with troubled youth. In it I hear his voice and everything he told me when I volunteered for him as a writing mentor in Seattle’s juvenile detention. This book is a clear guide on how to apply his expressive writing methods in any setting, but his thoughts and stories about the work remind us how transformational it can be for young people who need this empowerment the most. For my own trauma-serving poetry project in Sacramento, founded with Richard’s guidance, this book will be required reading for all of my future poet mentors.
Writing with At-Risk Youth is an understatement of what the Pongo Teen Writing program does. Pongo works and writes with youth who have been buffeted by unimaginable trauma, the most challenged and troubled children in juvenile detention and psychiatric facilities. This extraordinary book does two things. It teaches others to do what Pongo has done so successfully: get distressed youth to express themselves in ways that ease their burdens, reflect on themselves and their families, deal with overwhelming issues that are hard to discuss in therapy, and write amazing poetry. And, in describing the Pongo Method, this book tells the stories of these children in their own words. Richard Gold writes with the pen of a writer, the understanding of a therapist, and empathy that reflects his broad experience and compassion. The method is simple and creative. I have seen the transformation and pride these youth experience when they show a judge a poem they have written with Pongo, and hope this book will foster widespread use of Pongo's methods.
Sadly, the juvenile justice system has become the dumping ground for youth who have mental health issues or a history of trauma or both. All incarcerated youth are suffering. That suffering will find expression: positive or negative. Writing with At-Risk Youth is a user-friendly book that offers a pro-social, holistic, and low-cost solution.
In Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method, Richard Gold shows that writing can enable youths to process trauma and thereby gain a measure of control over its consequences. He offers concrete techniques for working collaboratively with youths to cultivate writing skills, as well as methods of addressing the challenges arising from that intervention, while making clear its abundant rewards for educators and mentors.
In Writing with At-Risk Youth, Richard Gold takes on the incredible task of demystifying the teaching of poetry for at-risk youth. The book is a straightforward, beautiful, and heartfelt how-to for educators of any age…and a testament to the compassionate tools Richard employs in his own teaching approach, as well as the tenderness he feels toward emotionally troubled youth.
[T]he world of Pongo poetry," writes author Richard Gold, "is about... tuning into an underground river of unarticulated emotion, that rumbles and roars just beneath the surface of our world. We can feel it through the soles of our feet, when we attend to it, and it shakes us." In these pages Gold carries the reader deftly into this subterranean realm, in which carefully crafted expressive writing provides soundings from the hearts of troubled teens who are helped to write with startling depth and honesty. By following the Pongo model, writing mentors and counselors can help young people hear and share their own emotional truths, and participate in the seismic shifts they foster.